Inauguration

Note: This piece was written for Take Back Theatre’s Take Back: America night — an evening of urgent script-in-hand responses to the US presidential election and inauguration — on request of the wonderful Julie Hesmondhalgh. The piece was performed at The Comedy Store in Manchester on 23 Jan 2017, and has been reproduced below.

I am far too limited to join politics or even approach its discourse in any depth, but I hope there is at least something in here that may resonate with anyone who has had to accept the unfair will of a regime, has been on the fence about taking action in even the smallest form, or has been made to feel ‘other’ for the simple reason of daring to exist exactly as they were born. I am filled with an unfamiliar anger that feels only geared toward one message: today we stop apologising for who we are, and today we stand firmer than ever before.

1968.
Off the boat. Off the plane. 
Always the same.
Shame.
A home neither East nor West.
Persecution. Amputation.
Bullets where cartilage should be.
You’re not Muslim. 
You can’t be.
You believe something different.
You don’t belong here.
You should be dead.
You will be dead.
You are dead.

1919.
Colonised, terrorised.
Subjugated by privilege.
White is right.
Do as we say, not as we do.
Definitely not as we do.
100 years later,
Definitely not as we do.
Complex hierarchy, complex of superiority
Dictated by a melanin roulette.
Subcontinent midwives,
Subordinate lives.
Part of the war effort.
Your effort.
Culture drained, words absorbed.
Jungle, mogul, karma. 
Oh, karma.

1996.
Grafting up the ladder.
Grafted into society.
The acceptable immigrants.
Head down, contributing,
Building a safe space.
Or a “ghetto”.
Be who they want you to be,
Your children who you want them to be.
60s Pakistan, 90s England.
Noor Jehan and George Michael.
Inaugurated by default
Into the green and pleasant,
Nestled in the crevice
Between desk and wall
Or where that crimson cross overlaps.
Never valued at more.
Never valuing more.
A seat coveted but never in reach.
Peace made with the status quo.
Where else do you go?

1974.
Gunned down by martial law.
Gulleys of Lahore.
Blindsided for belief.
Fundamental freedom never to be seen.
Outlawed in writ.
Hunted in packs.
Blasphemers in a mosque.
Stay quiet, stay safe.
Don’t be yourself.
Don’t dare be yourself.
Partition wounded a nation.
Casualties, victims.
Border and scar.
Staying in line
For a sense of hiraeth,
An unheard word
For an imaginary home.

2001.
Play the system.
At the cost of balance.
Straight A realities.
Antidepressant dreams.
Sitting in the intersection.
Cloistered in the land of the free.
Too Asian for Britain.
Too British for the Asian.
Too gay for both.
Rebellion, breakdown, recklessness.
Fallible, tangible, and lost.
Riots of race
Trying to conquer nothing 
But a sense of belonging.
Terror attacks.
Acts of war.
Suspicion confirmed.
Goodwill in smoke.
No charge nor quarter
While Sisyphus laughs.

1983.
Paki. 
Stones thrown.
Paki.
Windows bashed.
Paki.
Demonised, victimised.
Paki.
Stained words.
Sullied identity.
Dirty, different
Paki.
Not one of us.
Never one of us.
Root cause of all trouble.
Taking away luxury.
Bloody Pakis.
What’s ours is ours.
What’s yours is ours.
Chuckling away 
Over a pint and lamb bhuna.

2016.
TV glare.
Twitter streams.
Twice the unthinkable in one year.
Borders close.
Defences up.
Tides turn, as we turn
To allies.
Allies?
Paki.
Silence on the bus.
Allies nothing but
A cast of 140 characters
Bellowing against silence
Of indigenous rights.
The indigenous right.
Colonised, terrorised.
Subjugated by privilege.
Do as we say, not as we do.
Definitely not as we do.
100 years later,
Definitely not as we do.
Complex hierarchy, complex of superiority
Dictated by a melanin roulette.

2017.
January.
History repeats, they say.
Is it history
If it repeats every day?
1939.
Or yesterday.
Or the day before.
Depends who you ask.
Not me.
Not any more.
Burgundy passport
And all your oxygen.
The same earth and
The same birthright.
East and West bicker
Like two extremists.
Neither in my name.
Not any more.
Stuck in the middle,
“Snowflake”.
Only as in
The start of an avalanche.
I solemnly swear
You’re not Muslim.
Or British. 
Or American.
You can’t be.
But we are.
You don’t belong here.
We do.
You should be dead.
We survived.
You will be dead.
We came to life.
You are dead.
But we’re here.
We’re still here.
And we’re not going anywhere.